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Management article
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Reference no. R1201K
Published by: Harvard Business Publishing
Published in: "Harvard Business Review", 2012

Abstract

An increasing number of social entrepreneurs and investors are realizing that social enterprises of all sorts, including many organizations regarded as charitable nonprofits, can generate returns acceptable to the financial markets. The key is to view the funding of social enterprises as a problem of financial structuring. If they treat charitable donations as a form of capital that seeks social, not financial, returns, organizations can then tap traditional sources of funding: venture capital firms, banks, mutual funds, bonds, and so on. And with access to these sources, they can make use of all the tools for transferring risk and return, allowing them to free up capital and grow. For this to succeed, the social enterprise sector will need to create greater precision and transparency around measuring and reporting social outcomes, and policy makers must build the necessary market infrastructure and legal frameworks. With these efforts, social enterprises could have a larger universe of investors than conventional businesses do. This would be a significant step toward a greener, healthier, and more equitable world.

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Abstract

An increasing number of social entrepreneurs and investors are realizing that social enterprises of all sorts, including many organizations regarded as charitable nonprofits, can generate returns acceptable to the financial markets. The key is to view the funding of social enterprises as a problem of financial structuring. If they treat charitable donations as a form of capital that seeks social, not financial, returns, organizations can then tap traditional sources of funding: venture capital firms, banks, mutual funds, bonds, and so on. And with access to these sources, they can make use of all the tools for transferring risk and return, allowing them to free up capital and grow. For this to succeed, the social enterprise sector will need to create greater precision and transparency around measuring and reporting social outcomes, and policy makers must build the necessary market infrastructure and legal frameworks. With these efforts, social enterprises could have a larger universe of investors than conventional businesses do. This would be a significant step toward a greener, healthier, and more equitable world.

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